Review: Marcia Ball – Roadside Attractions

Posted on: Friday, Apr 22, 2011

“Roadside Attractions”
(Alligator Records – ALCD 4942)

The Texas-born, Louisiana-raised Marcia Ball has released “Roadhouse Attractions”, her fifth album for Alligator Records, and a celebration of forty years on the road, containing her usual joyous mix of boogie and Gulf Coast blues that can’t leave you with anything less than a smile on your face!

Based in Austin since 1970 the award-winning pianist / singer / writer is multi-award winning and on “Roadside Attractions” she has delivered a winning 12-track collection, recorded in Nashville and Austin, and produced by Gary Nicholson, who has worked with the likes of Delbert McClinton and Wynonna Judd, and has also co-penned some of the songs.

Things get off to a trademark start with the rollicking “That’s How It Goes”, which apart from Ball’s rolling piano and fine vocal, features some tasteful slide guitar from Colin Linden and the great Reese Wynans soloing on Hammond B-3 organ; the swampy title cut of “Roadside Attractions” follows, with Linden’s gritty guitar again underpinning more joyous piano work. Marcia Ball’s own “”Between Here And Kingdom Come” slows things down – a beautiful song and a definite highlight.

“We Fell Hard” has a New Orleans feel, with more great piano, and the horns of Dan Bechdolt, Steve Butts and Greg Wilson featured, with some funky grooves from Don Bennett on bass and Damien Llanes on drums. “Look Before You Leap” is a ‘killer’ Texas shuffle, a co-write with the legendary Dan Penn and Gary Nicholson, with some scorching guitar from Mike Schermer, and the whole track swings beautifully.

The soulful ballad “I Heard It All” is a sorrowful tale of a couple having a hotel ‘domestic’, with Colin Linden’s slide guitar sorrowful here; the Southern soul feel of “Believing In Love” taking things up again, with Reese Wynans featuring again. I could be wrong, but “This Used To Be Paradise” sounds like a lament for the terrible pollution that was suffered in the Gulf of Mexico, from a personal perspective, with Joel Guzman’s sweet accordion giving that authentic Louisiana Cajun edge to the song.

Elsewhere “Sugar Boogie” is pretty self-explanatory, a great swinger with all the band kicking up a storm, as Marcia Ball herself fires off some sparkling piano solos, traded with Mike Schermer’s guitar licks; “Mule Headed Man” is a slow blues, where Ball laments the man in question, who is most definitely stubborn and does his own thing! This highly recommended collection ends on a storming note with the rocking “The Party’s Still Going On” . . . forty years on it certainly is for this much-loved lady of the blues and boogie!


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